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Traveling With Your Dog? Here Are 5 Tips!

By Kayla Fratt

As summer heats up and vaccination rates rise, many of us are looking forward to our first vacations in a very long time. Since our dogs have been quarantined and cooped us with us for the last year or more, it’s smart to plan ahead and prepare for your dog to join your vacation. 

Of course, things may be a bit different if your dog isn’t joining you on your trip. While it’s still smart to prepare your dog to be left behind while you’re away on a trip, this article focuses on bringing your dog with you.

I have traveled to nine different countries with my dog, and have flown from Panama to Wisconsin, and Montana to Maine with him. Even my 7-month-old puppy has already been on a few big road trips and stayed in various AirBnbs. Here are our tips!

1. Ensure your dog wants to go.

In some cases, your dog may actually be happier staying at home. When I went to Tennessee for my sister’s college graduation, my dog would have been much happier at home. Instead, he was subjected to long hours alone in an AirBnb, sticky walks through the southern heat, and stressful large-group gatherings of strangers. Very little about that trip was dog-friendly, let alone dog-centric. On the flip side, when we went to Maine it was for a dog-specific camping trip and he had an absolute blast! Depending on your dog’s personality and preferences, they may prefer to avoid big family gatherings or cramped camping trips.

Tip: If your dog gets anxious in the car or crate, it’s likely that traveling will be challenging as well. Consider leaving your dog with a trusted caretaker. If you must bring your dog with you, talk to your vet about anti-nausea or anti-anxiety options to help your dog settle during travel. 

2. Plan for dog-friendly stops.

Whether you’re driving cross-country or flying, ensure that you know where some dog-friendly stops are. I always map out dog potty areas in airports in relation to our terminals so that I can get Barley to the potty area efficiently after a long flight. On most road trips, it’s pretty easy to find rest areas with dog potty areas. Of course, it’s also important to confirm that your hotels and other activities are dog-friendly. Many hotels have extra fees or restrictions concerning pets, so double-check that. If you plan on eating out while traveling, you want to ensure that you’ve got a plan to safely leave your dog in the car. Or better yet, get takeout or drive thru and then head to a city park to eat outdoors while your dog stretches out in the grass. 

Dogs in Van

3. Take extra breaks.

Driving and flying are both hard on dogs. Whenever you can on road trips, take extra breaks for them to stretch their legs and decompress a bit. I try to stop along random dirt roads for 20 minute walks every 2-3 hours on road trips. This lets my dogs really stretch their legs, get some water, and relieve themselves. It also helps keep me awake and alert as a driver! For flights, it’s generally best to aim for direct flights to reduce the likelihood of something going wrong during a layover if your dog is in cargo. But if your dog is in the plane with you, longer layovers can allow for some time to stretch your pup’s legs and ensure you’ve got time to head to the dog potty area. Sometimes, those potty areas are 15+ minute walks out of your way — so the extra time is worth it!

“Whenever you can on road trips, take extra breaks for them to stretch their legs and decompress a bit. I try to stop along random dirt roads for 20 minute walks every 2-3 hours on road trips… For flights, it’s generally best to aim for direct flights if your dog is in cargo. But if your dog is in the plane with you, longer layovers can allow for some time to stretch your pup’s legs…”

4. Pack thoroughly.

I often find myself forgetting basics like dog bowls while remembering leashes, brushes, chew toys and more. I now keep a basic list on my computer that reminds me to bring a containment system (like a crate or exercise pen), chews, toys, food, bowls, a water jug (for road trips), cleaning supplies, a dog towel, basic grooming supplies and a lint roller. My AirBnb hosts are always thrilled with the fact that I lint roll the couch, can contain my puppy if unattended, and have adequate chewtoys to keep my puppy from nibbling on their wooden coffee table.

5. Be flexible.

Traveling with partners of any sort requires some give and take. This is especially true for your pet. While most dogs are thrilled to spend extra time with their people, travel can be stressful for them. It’s important to balance their needs with your agenda. It can be frustrating to take extra time to ensure your dog has time to relax in nature or to constantly get takeout rather than sitting down because it’s too hot to leave your dog in the car, but that’s the price of bringing your dog with you on vacation. I’ve had to turn down many fun opportunities when I travel with my dog because I can’t go straight from the museum to drinks with friends — I have to run home and take care of the dog. In many cases, it’s worth it!

Traveling with a dog can be tricky, but with good planning and preparation can be a lot of fun. We’d love to hear about your doggie travel stories on our social media!

Woman and Dog looking at Grand Canyon

Kayla Fratt is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and the owner of Journey Dog Training. She’s passionate about helping owners prevent and treat behavior problems in their pets. She also works as a conservation detection dog trainer with her border collies in Missoula, Montana. She’s an avid runner, cross-country skier and a budding agility competitor.

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